Business news

Business news

May 2, 2012



NPR's business news starts with falling profits for UBS.


GREENE: Suisse Bank UBS announced today that their profits fell 54 percent in the first quarter of this year. The drop is blamed on a decrease in investment banking income, and also because of an accounting charge on its debt.



Americans are now eating more chicken than beef or pork. And meeting that demand is an industry that some have dubbed big chicken. Texas is a major player in the industry, and so now Texas must manage a problem that in other circumstances we might describe as fallout or blowback. Dave Fehling of member station KUHF in Houston explains what that problem is.

For decades, Olympics fans have loathed two words: "tape" and "delay." But this summer, things will be different: For the first time, NBC will stream live video of the London Games, online and via mobile.

If you think that decision is overdue, you're not alone. Sports Business Daily media reporter John Ourand says he is shocked it has taken this long for the network to put live video of all Olympic events online.

Like hundreds of cities across the country, Chicago is trying to tackle the issue of too many foreclosed and vacant homes. The city is now requiring lenders to ensure that those abandoned properties are secured and maintained. Other cities have similar laws.

But the federal government is suing Chicago over its new rules in what's seen as a test case that could affect whether any city would be allowed to keep lenders on the hook for abandoned properties.

How Colleges Fight For Top Students

May 2, 2012

It's a gray April evening, and two men have driven from Easton, Pa., to Manhattan. The men are administrators at Lafayette College. They're wearing solid black suits with Lafayette pins on their lapels.

They're here to see 12 students — high school seniors who have been admitted to Lafayette and are trying to decide where to go to college.

The men have come to make the students "feel that Lafayette is in their future and make them think that they'll ruin their lives if they go elsewhere," says Greg MacDonald, Lafayette's dean of admissions.

This week, the U.S. Census Bureau announced that in the first quarter of 2012, the American homeownership rate hit its lowest level in 15 years. During the housing boom, millions more Americans bought homes, bumping the rate to nearly 70 percent. Now, that buying spree has been replaced with millions of foreclosures, and most of those gains have been lost.



Delta Airlines has decided to do something about high gas prices. The company is buying a refinery from ConocoPhillips for the bargain basement price of $150 million.

WHYY's Emma Jacobs reports that, with this purchase, Delta becomes the first major U.S. airline to get into the business of producing its own jet fuel.



From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Audie Cornish.

Rupert Murdoch has long been one of the world's most powerful media barons. Yet today, members of Britain's parliament declared him unfit to run a major international company. They released a report accusing Murdoch's News Corporation of a huge failure of corporate governance. NPR's Philip Reeves has the story.

News Corp. executives Rupert and James Murdoch can give a small sigh of relief, perhaps, that U.K. lawmakers investigating the tabloid hacking and bribery scandal did not conclude they misled Parliament in earlier testimony.

But that may be just about the only relief the Murdochs receive.

The scathing report accuses the company and several of its former top British executives of lying to Parliament and of seeking to cover up widespread phone hacking, computer hacking and bribing of government employees.

Enron, Worldcom, Bernie Madoff, the subprime mortgage crisis.

Over the past decade or so, news stories about unethical behavior have been a regular feature on TV, a long, discouraging parade of misdeeds marching across our screens. And in the face of these scandals, psychologists and economists have been slowly reworking how they think about the cause of unethical behavior.

In general, when we think about bad behavior, we think about it being tied to character: Bad people do bad things. But that model, researchers say, is profoundly inadequate.

What Will Make the Food Desert Bloom?

May 1, 2012

There's a battle for better health going on in poor neighborhoods across the country, and part of that battle involves getting people living in so-called food deserts access to healthy food.

But as many activists have learned, it takes a combination of access, innovation, and education to change peoples' habits for the better.

Adding 87 points, the Dow closed at 13,339, its highest level since December of 2007.

CNN Money reports that the index rose in reaction to a rise in U.S. manufacturing activity.

The Wall Street Journal adds:

How Can Europe Save Itself? (Again.)

May 1, 2012

In the past week, the debate over how Europe can save itself has shifted away from austerity (government spending cuts) and toward policies that would slow spending cuts and try to promote economic growth.

There have been a few big drivers of this shift. It became clear that Francois Hollande, a Socialist who says he would push for more growth in Europe, is likely to be the next president of France.



Switching gears now to matters of personal finance, as you may know, we are celebrating TELL ME MORE's fifth anniversary on the air. We're celebrating all week long.

Now, five years may not seem like a long time, but our next guest says it's more than enough time to put a plan in place that will help you achieve your financial goals. Here to tell us more is the person we have turned to most often for insight into personal finance issues.

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch is "not a fit person" to lead a major international company, a committee of U.K. parliament members concludes today in a scathing report about the News Corp. chief and the actions of his British tabloids, NPR's Philip Reeves tells our Newscast Desk.

The report also accuses Murdoch's companies of "misleading a parliamentary committee," Philip says, and exhibiting "willful blindness" regarding their illegal activities.

Bank Of America To Lay Off More Workers

May 1, 2012



NPR's business news begins with more job cuts at Bank of America.


INSKEEP: The Wall Street Journal reports that the nation's second-largest bank is planning about 2,000 layoffs at its investment banking, commercial banking and wealth management units. These cuts are notable because they include high-earning employees in operations that account for most of Bank of America's profits since the financial crisis.

The Last Word In Business

May 1, 2012

In a new report, the employment firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas predicts more jobs for teenagers this summer. While the jobs picture is improving, CEO John Challenger says teen hiring is still several years away from returning to pre-recession levels.



Wal-Mart faces many questions after The New York Times reported that the company's expansion in Mexico involved systematic bribery. It is not, however, the first corporation to face this problem.


Years ago, Siemens - the giant German manufacturing firm - faced an even bigger scandal. Siemens is a little like General Electric. It seems to make everything everywhere, from security equipment to locomotives.



The last few years have not been a good time in the bookstore business, but Barnes & Noble stock is climbing after the company announced its dealings with a business partner. Microsoft is investing $300 million in Barnes & Noble. The money goes to the bookstore chain's efforts to expand in digital books and tablet computing. NPR's Wendy Kaufman reports.

Many older baby boomers — those already 65 — are choosing to go ahead with retirement rather than wait. That's according to a study by MetLife, which says 45 percent of 65 year olds described themselves as "fully retired." Only 5 percent retired later than planned.

The average caregiver is 49 years old. Cheryl Matheis, senior vice president for policy at AARP, tells Steve Inskeep when a worker has to leave their job to care for a relative, they lose on average $325,000 in lifetime income — from lost wages, Social Security and pensions.

The real estate market has turned around in some parts of the U.S., but many buyers aren't seeing true bargains anymore. Investors are driving up prices, and inventory is low, especially for homes priced under $250,000. That's not great news for anyone hoping to buy an affordable house to live in.

Arizona is home to one of the nation's extraordinary turnarounds. The Phoenix-area median home price rose 20 percent over the past year — 6 percent in March alone. And Tucson was recently named the nation's best market for investors. But the easy money has already been made.

Electropac, a firm that makes printed circuit boards in New Hampshire, once had 500 paid employees. Today, it has 34. But thanks to a state program for the unemployed, it also now offers unpaid internships.

Across the country, unpaid internships are on the rise for older adults looking to change careers or rebound from layoffs. In New Hampshire, a state-run program encourages the unemployed to take six-week internships at companies with the hope of getting a permanent job.

Walk through any nursing home, and your first thought might be: "I need to take care of Mom myself."

Few people want to turn over a loved one to institutional care. No matter how good the nursing home, it may seem cold and impersonal — and very expensive. But making the choice to provide care yourself is fraught with financial risks and personal sacrifices.

Those who become full-time caregivers often look back and wish they had taken the time to better understand the financial position they would be getting themselves into.

America's big technology companies are negotiating the details of a new privacy system called "Do Not Track," to let people shield their personal data on websites. There's no deal yet, but people inside the talks say the main reason American companies are even considering "Do Not Track" is the pressure they're feeling from Europe.

Cellphones were once simple tools for making calls on the go. But the phones have quickly become all-purpose devices, used to send email, read articles, find restaurants — and tell time.

And as more people carry that tool in their pocket or purse, fewer are relying on wristwatches to keep on schedule.

Monica Espitia is one of them. "Since I've had a cellphone, I pretty much stopped wearing watches," she says. "Until I went on vacation and I didn't know what time it was."

Natural gas pipeline company Energy Transfer Partners is buying Sunoco in a deal valued at about $5.3 billion.

The acquisition would give Energy Transfer the capability to transport crude and other liquid hydrocarbons that are being produced in greater quantities thanks to the boom in shale drilling. Sunoco's pipelines crisscross the country, connecting the Great Lakes and Northeast to America's refining center along the Gulf Coast.

Saying that "of course it will sink if you put a hole in it," Australia's wealthiest business executive today announced he has contracted with a Chinese shipbuilder to construct a replica of the Titanic.

Mining magnate Clive Palmer also, as The Sydney Morning Herald reports, said he's planning to run for a seat in Australia's parliament.

Microsoft is committing $300 million to the venture with Barnes & Noble. They are working to create a new subsidiary of the bookseller. The two companies are hoping to energize sales of the Nook tablet.

Regulators Eye Verizon's Proposed Airwaves Deal

Apr 30, 2012

Verizon Wireless announced plans last year to auction off some of its wireless spectrum, if federal regulators signed off on its plan to buy a $3.6 billion chunk of airwaves from cable companies. Public interest advocates say the deal would be bad for consumers. The FCC and Justice Department are reviewing the deal.